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Taking Care of Your Health Includes Getting Tested for STDs

April 08, 2019

We know that a healthy diet and exercise are the basics for achieving and maintaining good health, and that routine screenings for conditions and diseases of all sorts—blood pressure, mammograms, diabetes, even bi-yearly teeth cleanings—can prevent sickness and other health problems from taking root. So maybe it’s lack of awareness or just plain stigma that keeps many sexually-active adults from being screened for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Either way, STD screening is safe, confidential (as all health screenings are) and easy, and most STDs can be cured with antibiotics. STD screening is a normal part of taking care of your health.

STDs are common, and there are many types: chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, HPV and HIV. They are passed from a person who is infected to another through sexual contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2017, exceeding the previous 2016 record by more than 200,000 cases. From 2013 to 2017, STD cases have continued to increase: syphilis cases have nearly doubled; gonorrhea cases increased by 67 percent; and chlamydia cases have remained at record highs. In Florida, there has been a 32 percent increase in STD cases in the past five years, mirroring national trends.

STDs and Women

While STDs are potential health concerns for all sexually active people, it’s mostlwomen who suffer from life-changing health problems—delay and lack of treatment for STDs causes infertility and infant deaths. In the U.S., current trends indicate that untreated STDs cause infertility in at least 24,000 women yearly. Untreated syphilis in a mother can pass to her infant causing congenital syphilis (CS), and worse: up to 40 percent of infants with CS die at birth. Florida reported 93 cases of CS in 2017. That’s an increase of about 145 percent during a five-year period. If the mothers had been tested and treated for syphilis during their first and third trimesters, their babies may have been born CS-free.

Delayed or missed STD treatment is common for women because most women can have an STD and feel fine with outward symptoms that are minimal to none. Combine that with the stigma surrounding STDs, and it’s no surprise that women, and men, don’t think about STD screening as they should.

Self-care is health care, and you know the basics. Stay healthy now and for the future, and make STD screening as basic as tracking your blood pressure or getting your teeth cleaned—maximize your health and minimize STDs through routine screening.

April is STD Awareness Month, an annual observance to raise public awareness about the impact of STDs on the lives of Americans and the importance of preventing, testing for, and treating STDs. It is an opportunity to normalize routine STD testing and conversations about sexual health.